The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Tuesday that the H1N1 “swine flu” pandemic was officially over. The declaration came only about six months after virtually everybody else in the Western world realized that nothing like a pandemic, as we normally understand the term, had ever really begun.
Thirteen months ago, the WHO raised the swine flu threat to a Level 6 pandemic alert, the highest possible. “It is all of humanity that is under threat,” warned Margaret Chan, the WHO director-general. The organization projected millions of souls might be struck down by the virus; the WHO’s assistant director-general drew comparisons to the Spanish Flu, which had wiped out upwards of 20 million people by 1919.
It quickly became apparent that H1N1 would be nothing like that. And never will be. The WHO says this is now just another “seasonal influenza.” As those bugs go, it appears a milder strain. More common varieties kill 250,000 to 500,000 people worldwide every year. The total confirmed death toll of the Great Swine Flu Pandemic: 18,000.
The world’s most authoritative body suddenly seems far less authoritative, particularly as it resists acknowledging unnecessarily triggering worldwide fear. “We have never had a moment’s doubt of whether this is a pandemic or not,” insisted one official recently.